Israel’s settlement push kills two-state solution, leaving Palestinians few options

srael’s settlement construction in the E1 corridor and East Jerusalem sends a clear message. Unless President Obama stands up to Israel, he and Benjamin Netanyahu should not be surprised if Palestinians charge them with the death of the two-state solution and seek other paths.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man pushes a shopping cart past a construction site in Gilo, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Dec. 20. Op-ed contributor Mustafa Barghouthi says that ‘Israel’s planned settlement construction makes a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible’, noting that ‘Israel largely rejects…diplomacy,…suppresses nonviolent resistance, but makes minor concessions to violence…’

RAMALLAH

The two-state solution is dying. The Palestinian effort late last month at the United Nations to attain non-member observer state status was overwhelmingly approved – 138 to 9 – by the international community. Israel, however, warned that the vote would be purely symbolic and change nothing on the ground. This was a calculated and misleading statement.

In fact, Israel immediately took revenge for the Palestinians’ temerity in seeking to improve our lot by announcing “zoning and planning preparations” for illegal settlements in the sensitive E1 corridor in the occupied West Bank. This week Israel put out tenders for thousands of new settlement units – the most aggressive activity in the area in years.

Israel’s planned settlement construction makes a contiguous Palestinian state virtually impossible. Bethlehem and Ramallah will be cut off from East Jerusalem if the E1 project goes forward, though Israel argues that we can make do with connecting tunnels and elevated roadways, as if that is tolerable. The Israeli plan also closes the settlement semi-circle around East Jerusalem and builds settlements in it – our would-be capital. The north and south of the West Bank would be effectively bisected and Israel would control the key.

“This is not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank,” Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, asserted after Israel’s initial announcement of settlement plans in late November. “This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope the United States will lay down the law.”

But the Obama administration appears to be unwilling to do so. With Israel’s newest settlement plans announced Wednesday, all members of the United Nations Security Council issued statements condemning the construction – all except the United States. Though a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday after Israel’s newest announcement that the US is “deeply disappointed” in Israel’s “pattern of provocation,” the Obama administration, after a positive start, has proven every bit as craven in standing up to Israel as its predecessors.

The same day Israel made its Nov. 30 announcement regarding E1 and plans for 3,000 new settlement units around the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I saw photos of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoying an evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and long-time stalwarts of the Israel lobby in Washington. She made a moderate expression of concern regarding new Israeli settlement activity, but there was certainly no laying down of the law.

A morally compromised United States will provide no succor. Europe, however, is showing signs of understanding just how serious Israel’s actions are. Several European nations voted in favor of upgrading Palestine’s status at the UN. US allies GermanyFrance, and Britain all spoke out against Israel’s latest settlement plans. But Europe must go beyond issuing statements, dressing down Israeli ambassadors, or threatening to recall European ambassadors to Israel. Resolute action from the Europeans is long overdue. Now is the time for Europe to review and discard economic relations that disregard Israel’s export of products from illegal settlements.

We Palestinians, with our new-found international standing, are also not as helpless as we once were. We can now go to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. Those Israeli leaders pursuing illegal colonizing activity in E1 and elsewhere would be on notice that we will actively pursue legal action against them. Those European nations that prior to the vote did not want us to pursue legal action may well be convinced that we are right to push back in a limited fashion against Israel’s land-grabbing response.

ANOTHER VIEW: Campaigns to hurt Israeli economy really hurt Middle East peace

Palestinians of my generation are at wits’ end. I have lived my entire adult life under Israeli occupation. Though I was born in East Jerusalem and worked there as a young doctor for 15 years, I am no longer permitted access. When I ran in 2005 to be president of the Palestinian Authority, I was detained and arrested four times by the Israelis. Three times I was injured while participating in peaceful marches against the closure of Jerusalem to most of the Palestinian population.

My response, and that of thousands of Palestinians, has been active nonviolent resistance to highlight for the world the injustices we face. The UN bid was nothing but the mildest possible form of peaceful diplomatic resistance. During the last few weeks in bothGaza and the West Bank, the Israeli government, with what amounts to the implicit support of the United States, has sent one message: It understands and respects only the language of force and violence.

What is the lesson being drawn by Palestinians? Israel has largely rejected or ignored diplomacy, has violently suppressed nonviolent resistance, but has made minor concessions to violence (as seen in the cease-fire agreement with Hamas over the recent conflict in Gaza). Many Palestinians drew the same conclusions in 2000 when Israel withdrew from Lebanon.

Of course, a peaceful solution will be one that guarantees security for both Israel and the Palestinians. And the best Palestinian option for long-term peace and a two-state solution remains nonviolence. This approach should include an international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and Israeli companies, intended to prove to Israelis that subjugation of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has real consequences.

I have repeatedly warned of the window closing on the two-state solution. With its latest settlement actions Israel has effectively announced that its government has no interest in the two-state solution. Palestinians of my generation – and many younger Palestinians – will be reevaluating our options. We simply will not accept being permanently relegated to isolated territories and subjected to a system that Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other moral and legal authorities acknowledge to be apartheid.

Our struggle is rapidly changing. Calls for a “one-state solution” – one democratic state with equal rights for all Israelis and Palestinians, regardless of religion or ethnicity – will only increase in the months ahead. One person, one vote will be the new rallying cry for many Palestinians.

Effective punitive actions are needed if Israel is to reverse its present course. If the US does not take this action soon, the West should not be surprised to find an increasing number of Palestinians concluding that the two-state solution has died on President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s watch.

(Mustafa Barghouthi / www.csmonitor.com / 20.12.2012)

Palestinian media attacks ‘unlawful’

Smoke and debris are seen after an Israeli airstrike on a building housing media in Gaza City Nov. 18, 2012.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s attacks on journalists and media facilities during its assault on Gaza in November violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

The attacks in mid-November killed two cameramen, wounded 10 employees of media organizations and caused serious damage to media and offices housing them.

Human Rights Watch says a detailed investigation found no evidence that the sites were being used for military objectives, despite such assertions by the Israeli army and government.

“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”

Israel’s military responded by saying it “acts in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, despite the ongoing deliberate violations and abuse of these laws by the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip”.

“The details of the events mentioned in the report are being checked,” the military said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “Once this process is complete, we will be able to provide a comprehensive response.”

(www.maannews.net / 20.12.2012)

An Unforgettable Life

Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian people and the man who sparked its Palestinian revolution, as well as one of the great world leaders of the twentieth century, worked tirelessly for more than half a century on many fronts.  He raised the name of Palestine and its people’s cause to the world’s consciousness and placed the Palestinian issue on the international political map.
From his birth until he was martyred in the service of his cause, it was as if he was the embodiment of his homeland.   Yasser carried Palestine with him through the course of his life: as a homeland and a cause, a hope and a burden.  He was so completely devoted to the Palestinian cause that for many years the two names were nearly synonymous: if Palestine was mentioned, so was Arafat.  When his name was spoken, any Pakistani, Dutchman, Russian, Cuban, American or Indonesian would immediately think of Palestine.
Perhaps the key aspect of his upbringing is what shaped “Mohammad Yasser” or “Yasser’s” character and remarkable qualities. He restored the Palestinian nationhood that was going to be diminished through his effort and struggle to affirm the existence on the one hundred thousand refugees whom he led. This was the real struggle for Palestinians existence that aimed to prevent dismantling and shattering its cause.
The fact that Arafat grew up in Jerusalem, where he played in the streets around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock compound, the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, kept Jerusalem always dear to his heart and mind.  He refused to surrender it and ultimately paid the price of his life for this loyalty.
Birth and upbringing in Jerusalem
High school
In Kuwait: The birth of a movement
In Algeria
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
Launch of the armed struggle
The Naksa (Setback): The war of 1967
The battle of Karamah
Formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
Jordan: The events of September 1970
Relocating to Lebanon
Successes and Achievements
The Lebanese Civil War
Perseverance: The 1982 siege of Beirut
Difficult years in Tunisia: Sabra and Shatila and internal division
Under siege in Tripoli
Bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunisia
War in the refugee camps
The First Intifada and the assassination of Abu Jihad
Declaration of independence
The Madrid Conference
The Oslo Accords
Returning home
Elections and Withdrawals
Camp David 2000
The Second Intifada
The siege of Ramallah
Israel’s efforts to eliminate Arafat
Arafat’s death

(www.yasserarafat.ps / 20.12.2012)

Banks to lend PA $100 million

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian banks will lend the Palestinian Authority $100 million to see it through a financial crisis caused by Israeli sanctions, the Palestine Monetary Authority chief said Wednesday.

The PMA reached an agreement with bank representatives for the short-term loan that will be repaid when the Arab League delivers its promised financial security net, Jihad al-Wazir said in a statement.

The Palestinian Authority has already borrowed over $1.2 million from banks, al-Wizar said.

The cash advance would enable the government to make partial payments of late salaries, the finance ministry said.

Government employees in the West Bank began a two-day strike on Wednesday to protest against a delay in the payment of their wages caused by Israeli economic sanctions.

Israel is withholding about $100 million in monthly customs revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf as punishment for their successful bid at the UN General Assembly last month to gain de-facto statehood recognition.

The Palestinian Authority was suffering a deep financial crisis even before the move, and has had to delay payments to its 153,000 public sector workers several times this year.

“This strike is against Israel’s piracy,” said Bassam Zakarneh, chief of the government employees’ union.

“The situation is very grave and the services to the people are much reduced by the strike,” he said. “(People) can’t even afford transportation to their workplaces.”

Government workers last received salaries for October, which were paid belatedly at the end of November.

(www.maannews.net / 20.12.2012)

U.N. Adds New Name: “State of Palestine”

The United Nations bureaucracy now recognizes—at least in name—two “states” between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea. One, of course, is the long-since established State of Israel. The other, as of three days ago, is the State of Palestine. It happened quietly in an exchange of letters just within the past week. On Dec. 17, the U.N.’s head of official protocol wrote to the Palestinian delegation to Turtle Bay acceding to a request to, henceforth, be referred to as the representatives of the “State of Palestine.”

A symbolic chair that a Palestinian delegation is using to campaign for membership in the United Nations. (Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images)
A symbolic chair that a Palestinian delegation is using to campaign for membership in the United Nations.

“It is gratifying, not only for me personally, but for the Palestinian people, to celebrate as a nation,” the head of the Palestinian U.N. mission Riyad Mansour told me in an interview today. “It’s not only a change of name, it’s much more than that: now the United Nations is recognizing us as the State of Palestine.”

The protocol division’s letter followed on the Nov. 29 vote to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state” at the U.N. Mansour said requests for changes in the official language were made following the vote. The reply came on Monday: “I refer to your letter of 12 December 2012 and have the honour to inform you that pursuant to your request, the designation of ‘State of Palestine’ shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents,” wrote the Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon in a letter to Mansour obtained by Open Zion. The designation is on all the nameplates at the U.N. and will appear in activities related to the U.N., such as international conferences. That includes the Palestinian mission to Turtle Bay: Yoon’s letter was addressed to “H.E. Mr. Riyad Mansour / Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.”

The Israeli mission to the U.N. did not immediately return a call for comment. (We’ll update if we hear back.) Israel, which exercises military rule over the Palestinian territories, and 8 others, including the U.S., voted against the resolution to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state.

In twist unique to the Palestinians, the mission submitted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s name as the “Head of State of the State of Palestine” for official U.N. use because Abbas also serves as the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The U.N. mission represents the PLO, not the PA, in New York. The Yoon letter noted Abbas’s new status, and said the Protocol division awaited names of other government officials. PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad’s name has not been submitted yet, Mansour told me. “The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority is not exactly the prime minister of the State of Palestine,” Mansour explained. “Fayyad doesn’t have the title of the State of Palestine. If it is decided in the executive committee of the PLO, which is the acting government of the state of Palestine, then we will send his name.”

Yoon’s letter also noted the change to the “Blue Book”—the U.N. directory of missions. The version of the “Blue Book” online at press time doesn’t yet give the latest version (for me, at least), but I’m told an updated version has been loaded into the system. That update will take Palestine out of section III—”Entities having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions”—and place it in section II along with the Vatican (Holy See) as a “non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer.”

(www.thedailybeast.com / 20.12.2012)

Allocution devant les deux chambres réunies du Parlement algérien

Monsieur le Président du Conseil de la Nation,

Monsieur le Président de l’Assemblée populaire nationale,

Monsieur le Premier ministre,

Mesdames, Messieurs les Ministres,

Mesdames, Messieurs les Parlementaires.

Vous me faites grand honneur en me recevant ici, en m’accueillant, comme le peuple algérien l’a fait hier. Je mesure l’importance de l’événement, mais aussi la grandeur de l’enjeu ouvrir un nouvel âge dans la relation entre la France et l’Algérie. Ma visite vient dans un moment chargé de sens et de symboles, il y a cinquante ans, l’Algérie accédait à l’indépendance, elle s’arrachait à la France, après une guerre longue de huit ans.

Elle devenait la République algérienne libre et souveraine. Elle conquérait ce droit, ce droit inaliénable, ce droit de pouvoir disposer pour un peuple de lui-même. Cinquante ans, c’est court à l’échelle de l’histoire, et pourtant, quel chemin a été parcouru par l’Algérie depuis 1962. L’Algérie est aujourd’hui un pays respecté sur la scène internationale, qui compte, qui pèse, l’Algérie est un pays dynamique, dont les ressources sont considérables, dont l’économie est en développement, et je mesure ces étapes chaque fois que je viens en Algérie, depuis 1978, lorsque jeune fonctionnaire français, j’étais pour huit mois à l’ambassade de France à Alger.

L’Algérie est un pays jeune, dont la moitié de la population a moins de 26 ans, et donc plein de promesses, l’Algérie est un pays courageux, il l’a prouvé dans son histoire, il l’a prouvé encore plus récemment face à l’épreuve terroriste qu’il a traversée – ce pays – avec dignité et unité. A cette Algérie, fière de son passé, consciente de ses forces, la France, à travers moi, adresse des vœux de prospérité et de réussite.

Mais la question qui est posée à nos deux pays, l’Algérie et la France, elle est simple, elle est grave : sommes-nous capables d’écrire ensemble une nouvelle page de notre histoire ? Je le crois. Je le souhaite. Je le veux. Nous ne partons pas d’ailleurs de rien, puisque nous pouvons nous appuyer sur les liens humains que vous avez rappelés, Monsieur le Président, linguistiques, je parle une langue, le français, que vous connaissez et que vous parlez, des liens économiques, qui unissent aussi nos deux pays.

Mais cette amitié, pour vivre, pour se développer, elle doit s’appuyer sur un socle, ce socle, c’est la vérité. Cette vérité, nous la devons à tous ceux qui par leur histoire, par leur histoire douloureuse, blessés, veulent ouvrir une nouvelle page. Nous la devons à la jeunesse, à toutes les jeunesses, qui veulent avoir foi en leur avenir, et donc qui veulent savoir d’où elles viennent. Rien ne se construit dans la dissimulation, dans l’oubli, et encore moins dans le déni. La vérité, elle n’abîme pas, elle répare, la vérité, elle ne divise pas, elle rassemble.

Alors, l’histoire, même quand elle est tragique, même quand elle est douloureuse pour nos deux pays, elle doit être dite. Et la vérité je vais la dire ici, devant vous. Pendant 132 ans, l’Algérie a été soumise à un système profondément injuste et brutal, ce système a un nom, c’est la colonisation, et je reconnais ici les souffrances que la colonisation a infligées au peuple algérien. Parmi ces souffrances, il y a eu les massacres de Sétif, de Guelma, de Kherrata, qui, je sais, demeurent ancrés dans la conscience des Algériens, mais aussi des Français. Parce qu’à Sétif, le 8 mai 1945, le jour même où le monde triomphait de la barbarie, la France manquait à ses valeurs universelles.

La vérité, elle doit être dite aussi sur les circonstances dans lesquelles l’Algérie s’est délivrée du système colonial, sur cette guerre qui, longtemps, n’a pas dit son nom en France, la guerre d’Algérie. Voilà, nous avons le respect de la mémoire, de toutes les mémoires. Nous avons ce devoir de vérité sur la violence, sur les injustices, sur les massacres, sur la torture. Connaître, établir la vérité, c’est une obligation, et elle lie les Algériens et les Français. Et c’est pourquoi il est nécessaire que les historiens aient accès aux archives, et qu’une coopération dans ce domaine puisse être engagée, poursuivie, et que progressivement, cette vérité puisse être connue de tous.

La paix des mémoires, à laquelle j’aspire, repose sur la connaissance et la divulgation de l’histoire. Mais la nôtre est aussi une histoire humaine, car au-delà des blessures, au-delà des deuils, demeure la relation exceptionnelle nouée entre les Français et les Algériens ; les Français d’Algérie, instituteurs, médecins, architectes, professeurs, artistes, commerçants, agriculteurs qui, avec le peuple algérien, avaient su nouer, dans des conditions difficiles, intolérables parfois, des relations tellement humaines.

Je me rendrai à Tlemcen, la ville de Messali HADJ, l’un des fondateurs du nationalisme algérien, qui évoque lui-même, dans ses mémoires, les Français d’Algérie, en rappelant l’amitié et la confiance, en évoquant ses relations simples, quotidiennes, naturelles dont le souvenir nous appartient. Je n’oublie pas non plus tous ces coopérants qui étaient venus après l’indépendance de l’Algérie, à la fois par conviction, et par souci de promotion du savoir et de la connaissance, et qui voulaient rendre service à la République, la jeune République algérienne.

Notre histoire, cette histoire, c’est aussi celle de grandes consciences françaises, qui ont su s’élever contre l’injustice de l’ordre colonial, Georges CLEMENCEAU, dès 1885, trouvât les mots pour dénoncer l’abus pur et simple de la force pour s’approprier l’homme et ses richesses. André MANDOUZE, moins connu, et pourtant, tellement militant, qui, toute sa vie, fut fidèle à ses valeurs dans la résistance, mais également dans la conscience de l’indépendance algérienne. Germaine TILLION, qui fut la militante inlassable du dialogue entre les hommes et les femmes, entre les peuples, l’écrivain François MAURIAC, qui sut rappeler dans les moments difficiles la véritable grandeur d’un peuple qui ne repose pas sur sa force brutale, mais sur la puissance de son message universel.

Et puis, notre histoire, l’histoire de la France, c’est aussi Alger, qui fut la capitale dans les moments les plus sombres de la France libre, parce que c’est ici que s’était réfugié l’honneur de la France, à Alger, avec le Général De GAULLE à sa tête.

Voilà tout ce qui nous rassemble, nous réunit et nous permet après avoir regardé l’histoire, le passé, de pouvoir construire l’avenir.  Je n’ai pas d’autres mots que ceux qu’employaient le président BOUTEFLIKA le 8 mai dernier à Sétif, qui appelait à une lecture objective de l’histoire loin des guerres de mémoires et des enjeux conjoncturels afin d’aider les deux parties à transcender les séquelles du passé et d’aller vers un avenir où puisse régner confiance, compréhension, respect mutuel, partenariat. Eh bien ces mots-là sont les miens encore aujourd’hui.

La proximité entre l’Algérie et la France n’est pas une incantation prononcée à chaque voyage d’un président de la République française en Algérie, la proximité dont je parle n’est pas une abstraction, n’est pas une construction elle est une réalité. Elle se fonde sur des liens intimes, profonds, uniques pour la France comme pour l’Algérie. Sur 900.000 Algériens qui résident à l’étrangers, 700.000 vivent en France et je ne peux pas compter tous ces Algériens venus à travers plusieurs générations donne leur force de travail pour permettre à la France d’être ce qu’elle est aujourd’hui.

Je pense aussi à ces jeunes Français nés de parents algériens qui sont pleinement Français, qui doivent être regardés toujours comme tels et qui en même temps sont en famille ici, chez vous en Algérie. Ces jeunes Français se sont engagés dans tous les domaines de l’économie, de la culture, du cinéma, de la littérature, du théâtre, du sport et même de la politique. Et nous avons attendu d’ailleurs trop longtemps ce moment, enfin les assemblées parlementaires françaises comptes désormais des élus d’origine algérienne.

Il y a aussi tous ces Français nés en Algérie et qui sont partis dans les conditions que chacun connait et avec le déchirement dont ils ne se sont pas remis mais qui portent toujours je vous l’assure, l’Algérie dans leur cœur. Je ne vais pas faire de comptabilité mais il y a des millions de mes concitoyens en France qui ont vis-à-vis de l’Algérie un fonds commun de références, de passion, d’émotions et qui loin d’affaiblir la France, renforce encore cette passion d’être ce qu’elle est aujourd’hui.

Voilà pourquoi nous sommes liés les uns aux autres mais la géographie aussi nous rapproche, la mer Méditerranée ne nous sépare pas elle nous unit mais elle nous confère aussi des responsabilités communes et exceptionnelles.

La Méditerranée c’est un espace politique, économique, diplomatique et nous avons le devoir de développer des projets qui bénéficient directement aux populations des deux rives. Je souhaite et je le dis devant vous, représentants du peuple algérien, je souhaite que la France et l’Algérie travaillent ensemble pour le projet méditerranéen.

De même que la France et l’Allemagne avaient été capables après une guerre tragique qui les avait opposé d’être les moteurs de la construction européenne eh bien l’Algérie et la France peuvent construire aussi l’union, l’unité méditerranéenne de demain.

Mais là aussi, non pas pour porter des projets chimériques mais des réalisations dans tous les domaines de l’énergie, des transports, de l’éducation, de la connaissance et du développement. Je parle d’éducation, de connaissance, de savoir, de recherche. La langue peut également nous servir de lien. L’Algérie chérit la langue arabe mais elle a su aussi se nourrir du français, se l’approprier comme un butin de guerre mais surtout, comme un instrument de connaissance, de diversité, de liberté.

Tant d’écrivains algériens ont apporté à la langue française leur génie, Kateb YACINE, Mohammed DIB, hier, Assiad DJEBAR, Anouar BENMALEK, Yasmina KHADRA, aujourd’hui et c’est Albert CAMUS, ce fils d’Alger dont nous célébrons l’an prochain l’anniversaire, le centième anniversaire de la naissance, qui a évoqué le premier cette communauté franco-arabe formée par tous les écrivains algériens dans l’égalité la plus parfaite. Merci à l’Algérie de donner aussi à la langue française sa diversité.

C’est fort de ces liens là, de cette responsabilité là qu’aujourd’hui à l’occasion de ma visite ici en Algérie, nos deux pays peuvent ouvrir une nouvelle page, un nouvel âge, à travers un partenariat stratégique d’égal à égal.

C’est ce que nous venons d’établir avec le président BOUTEFLIKA, une déclaration d’amitié ici à Alger et également un document qui scellera notre relation dans tant de domaines pour ce partenariat. Cinq ans, cinq ans d’actions communes si nous le voulons, si nous en décidons pour relever trois défis qui nous sont communs.

Le premier est économique, la France et l’Algérie doivent passer à la vitesse supérieure, doivent multiplier les échanges, les investissements, les réalisations communes. Oh nous connaissons les blocages, vous ici en Algérie, nous en France, nous savons les méfiances, les réticences mais nous savons aussi ce que nous pouvons faire ensemble.

Alors, faisons-le, dans le cadre de la transition énergétique, dans le cadre du partage des technologies, dans le cadre de la transition énergétique, dans le cadre du partage des technologies, dans le cadre de la formation des hommes et des femmes.

Nous pouvons partager nos savoir-faire, nos expériences, nos ressources, nous avons inventé parce que nous sommes la France, parce que vous êtes l’Algérie. Nous avons inventé de nouveaux modes de développement dans tous les domaines industriels, agricoles, et c’est pourquoi nous avons signé de nombreux accords de coopération ensemble à l’occasion de cette visite.

Je ne viens pas ici pour faire du commerce, je viens ici devant vous pour marquer un temps nouveau et en même temps 450 entreprises françaises, de grands groupes mais aussi des PME emploient directement 40.000 personnes, même 100.000 avec les emplois indirects en Algérie, nous pouvons faire davantage.

La France est le premier investisseur sur le territoire algérien, je m’en félicite mais nous pouvons faire encore mieux, elle est aussi son premier fournisseur, son troisième client, nous pouvons relever encore le niveau de nos échanges ; nous devons être prêts à aller plus loin et dans la délégation qui m’accompagne il y a toutes sortes de personnalités économiques, culturelles, scientifiques, artistiques, mais je veux que l’économie soit également au cœur de notre relation.

Hier RENAULT a signé un important accord en vue de produire dans votre pays une voiture destinée au marché local mais aussi régional, et j’allais dire même aussi international. Ce n’est pas une délocalisation, aucune entreprise française n’est venue s’installer au détriment de l’emploi français, c’est une entreprise RENAULT qui vient construire des véhicules pour qu’il y ait plus d’emplois en Algérie et plus d’emplois en France.

Voilà un bel accord que nous avons été capables de conclure sur le plan économique et il s’intégrera dans une déclaration de partenariat productif qui marquera cette idée de coproduction entre nos deux pays.

Le deuxième défi que nous avons à relever, en Algérie comme en France, c’est celui de la jeunesse, la formation, l’éducation, c’est une grande ambition de l’Algérie depuis l’indépendance, la formation, l’éducation c’est le grand message, c’est le rêve français depuis sa propre révolution.

Parce que nous avons tous conscience que la jeunesse n’est pas simplement un atout, une vitalité, c’est aussi une ressource que nous devons accompagner, encadrer, valoriser. Et dans tous les accords que nous avons passés entre l’Algérie et la France au cours de cette visite, ce sont des accords de formation et j’en ferai la démonstration à travers ce que nous allons faire pour des réseaux d’institut d’enseignement supérieur de technologie.

Quatre centres vont être crées qui, ensuite, serviront de référence pour être généralisés sur le territoire algérien, si vous en décidez. Ils aideront les jeunes à acquérir, dans un cycle court, les connaissances, les compétences qu’attendent les entreprises et permettront plus facilement de leur trouver du travail.

Notre partenariat, celui dont je parle, notre déclaration d’amitié doit s’adresser d’abord aux jeunes pour répondre concrètement à leurs attentes. Je pense aussi aux universitaires, à ces vingt-cinq mille Algériens qui étudient en France mais aussi à tous ceux qui s’intéressent en France à l’Algérie et qui veulent, là encore, nouer des relations à un niveau d’excellence, mais je veux que l’on accueille mieux et davantage les étudiants algériens.

C’est pourquoi je propose que puisse se construire une maison de l’Algérie à la cité internationale universitaire de Paris pour accueillir ces étudiants.

Nous pourrions nous dire qu’au niveau de la Méditerranée, nous pourrions faire ce qui a été réalisé au niveau de l’Europe, ces programmes d’échange universitaire, ce qu’on appelle ERASMUS. On trouvera un autre nom, d’un autre philosophe pour la Méditerranée mais c’est le même projet : permettre les échanges, la circulation.

J’ai parlé de circulation des personnes ; c’est le troisième défi que nous avons à régler. Près de deux cent mille Algériens reçoivent chaque année un visa dans nos consulats. Cette politique est indispensable, je la rappelle ici.

Nous devons, pour l’intérêt de l’Algérie et pour celui de la France, maîtriser les flux migratoires. Les jeunes que vous formez doivent trouver du travail ici, espérer faire leur vie ici, mais en même temps ils ont besoin aussi de circuler. Alors, nous ne devons pas faire de la demande d’un visa un parcours d’obstacle ou, pire encore, une humiliation. Au contraire ! Nous avons besoin que se poursuivent et même s’amplifient les allers-retours des étudiants, des entrepreneurs, des artistes, des familles. Bref, tout ce qui anime la relation entre la France et l’Algérie. Nous allons rester dans l’accord de 1968, mais nous prendrons toutes les mesures nécessaires pour accueillir mieux les demandeurs de visa et pour que les documents soient délivrés plus vite par nos consulats. C’est une affaire de respect et d’intérêt mutuel. Dans le même temps, nous attendons de l’Algérie qu’elle ouvre plus largement ses portes aux Français qui souhaitent se rendre sur votre territoire, parce qu’ils y ont des souvenirs, des attaches familiales, affectives ou des projets professionnels ou personnels à réaliser.

Enfin, le dernier défi que nous avons à relever, il est pour la paix et la sécurité dans le monde.

Nous portons les mêmes principes au plan international : l’indépendance, la souveraineté, le respect des peuples.

Nous connaissons les mêmes menaces : le terrorisme, et vous, vous savez ce qu’est le terrorisme. Nous avons aussi les mêmes valeurs d’émancipation ; nous avons le même besoin de vivre dans un environnement de paix et de stabilité. Or, chacun le voit, le monde est en plein changements. Parfois ils vont dans le bon sens, parfois dans le pire. Mais il y a eu ces peuples qui se sont soulevés contre la dictature, des révolutions ont apporté l’espoir mais aussi, reconnaissons-le, soulevé des inquiétudes.

Chaque pays doit trouver sa propre voie et vous l’avez montrée. Il ne peut pas y avoir de réponse unique aux aspirations des citoyens, mais la leçon de ce qu’on a appelé le printemps arabe c’est que de toute manière, et partout dans le monde, les peuples entendent prendre en main leur destin.

Alors, le rôle de la France, celui de l’Algérie, c’est de les accompagner dans la voie de l’ouverture, de la démocratie, de la liberté. Le droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes ne se discute pas, ne se marchande pas. Il en est ainsi du droit du peuple palestinien et, aux Nations Unies, l’Algérie et la France ont voté ensemble la résolution qui confère à la Palestine le statut d’État non-membre observateur.

Mais nous ne pouvons pas en rester là. Nous voyons les risques aussi d’un blocage, d’une fermeture, d’une violence.

Notre devoir, c’est de favoriser la négociation permettant la reconnaissance des deux Etats qui pourraient vivre en pleine sécurité, sûreté, respect, tout simplement en paix.

Enfin, il y a la crise du Sahel. Elle nous oblige aussi, et là-dessus je me félicite de voir que la Franceet l’Algérie partagent des principes communs. Nous devons affronter cette crise, mais nous devons laisser les Africains décider souverainement des opérations de soutien pour permettre au Mali de recouvrer son intégrité territoriale.

Nous avons deux volontés qui ne se discutent pas. La première, c’est de favoriser la négociation politique, le dialogue pour que toutes les parties prenantes qui respectent l’unité du Mali, qui n’acceptent pas le terrorisme, puissent se retrouver ensemble avec des voix permettant aussi une certaine reconnaissance de la spécificité du nord-Mali.

Mais en même temps que nous poursuivons cet effort de négociation politique, nous devons montrer une détermination. Non pas la France, qui n’est plus dans ces interventions d’hier, mais la communauté internationale. Parce que si le conseil de sécurité en décide, et il en décidera, alors ce seront les Africains eux-mêmes qui voudront ou ne voudront pas – et je sais qu’ils le veulent – engager une opération pour l’intégrité du territoire malien.

Et je fais confiance à l’Algérie pour mener à sa place toutes les négociations, discussions politiques en plein accord avec la France.

Voilà tout ce que nous avons à faire, voilà ce qui nous rapproche, voilà ce qui nous unit, voilà ce qui peut pour de longues années – je n’ose pas dire cinquante ans – mais nous pouvons aussi penser que ce que nous pensons vaut bien plus que pour cinq ans. Parce qu’ici, ce n’est plus une question de personnes : c’est la France, c’est l’Algérie. Une déclaration d’amitié, je le disais, a été signée. C’est bien une déclaration, mais l’amitié ça se prouve. C’est un beau sentiment.

Elle se fonde sur trois exigences, celles que j’ai rappelées devant vous. La reconnaissance du passé dans le respect des mémoires, de toutes les mémoires. La seconde exigence, c’est la solidarité entre nos deux nations qui partagent tant de destins communs. Et enfin la troisième exigence, c’est de lever l’espérance. L’espérance pour la jeunesse, la jeunesse de l’Algérie, la jeunesse de la France, celle qui va demain décider du sort de nos deux nations.

C’est pour elle que nous formons cette déclaration d’amitié. C’est pour elle que nous engageons ce partenariat exceptionnel d’égal à égal. C’est pour elle, cette jeunesse de France, cette jeunesse d’Algérie, que je suis venu ici, en visite comme chef de l’État, comme président de la République, pour vous dire combien je crois à l’amitié entre la France et l’Algérie.

Merci.  (French President F.Hollande in Algeria today, full speech)

(www.elysee.fr / 20.12.2012)

Syrian state TV news anchor disguises himself to flee from Assad

Syrian state TV news anchor Ahmad Fakhouri said he succeeded so well in disguising himself that nobody but his own family could recognize him. (Al Arabiya)

Syrian state TV news anchor Ahmad Fakhouri said he succeeded so well in disguising himself that nobody but his own family could recognize him.

Ahmad Fakhouri, known by many as one of the most famous news anchors on Syrian state TV, declared that he defected from the Syrian regime 9 months ago when he suddenly upped and left his job at the Syrian satellite channel.

In disguise, he lived in Damascus for six months until he was able to smuggle his wife, daughter, parents, his sister, and one of his two brothers through Beirut airport to Cairo, then followed them to Cairo where he lives now without work.

Fakhouri told Al Arabiya in a telephone interview this week that he succeeded so well in disguising himself that nobody but his own family could recognize him. He rented an apartment close to his old neighborhood in Damascus and used many disguises, fearing that the intelligence forces would recognize him.

“Once, I shaved my hair to become bald, and then I grew a moustache and wore dark glasses. Another time, I grew my beard so nobody could recognize me,” he said.

Fakhouri ,35 years old, is a husband and father of an 18-month- old baby.

His father Abdulraheem Fakhouri was the head of the radio and TV center in the province of Hama before retiring last year at the start of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Fakhouri, who provided Al Arabiya with some of his pictures while he was disguised in Cairo, said that he’s not one of the most famous presenters in Syria as described by some, but the well-known by Syrians.

He said he saw Assad only once at the beginning of 2012, while he was covering his visit to Austria and Slovakia, and didn’t speak to him during that trip.

He noted that he has enough money to cover his needs and his family in Cairo for three months only, and that he rented an apartment in Cairo, choosing the Egyptian capital because “the cost of living is lower, unlike nearby Istanbul or Beirut” as he said.

Fakhouri hopes to find a job in an Arabic satellite channel.

“Not because I am defector from the regime media … I want to work at a credible TV station which will give me the opportunity to prove my skills, he said. Fakhouri was widely known for producing documentaries.

He said that it is not necessary to repeat the reason behind his defection as “everybody knows the criminal acts of Assad’s regime against Syrians,” saying most of his colleagues wish to defect and are waiting for the right opportunity to flee.

Fakhouri who started in 2004 at Damascus Radio before moving two years later to the Syrian satellite channel, said that some of the opposition fighters from Hama escorted him from Damascus to a village in Idlib where he spent the night before taking him to an area close to the border with Turkey.

He then fled to Istanbul and “took a plane to join my family [in Cairo] who fled two months ago, running away from the atrocities of the regime.”

He likened working at Syrian state media is like working in a dictatorship, where “nobody has the right to give his opinion.

“Even during the meeting with the president’s advisor Butheina Chaaban, I was always aware that as an anchor I didn’t have any right to interfere in any news item and I was waiting for things to change as I had believed that Assad is intended to make reforms. When I discovered his violent path, I decide to run away to a safer place,” he added.

(english.alarabiya.net / 20.12.2012)

AP Exclusive: Palestinians aim to isolate Israel

 

FILE – In this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 file photo a general view of Givat Hamatos area is seen in east Jerusalem, Israel on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 pressed forward with the construction of thousands of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, part of a series of new settlement plans that have drawn worldwide rebuke, including from its closest ally, the United States. Sebastian Scheiner, File / AP Photo

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Weeks ahead of Israeli elections, Palestinian officials are already plotting a series of tough steps against Israel to be taken if, as polls predict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected and peace efforts remain stalled.

Emboldened by their newly upgraded status at the United Nations, the Palestinians are talking of filing war crimes charges against Israel, staging mass demonstrations in the West Bank, encouraging the international community to impose sanctions, and ending the security cooperation that has helped preserve quiet in recent years.

These plans, combined with growing international impatience with Israeli settlement construction on occupied land, could spell trouble and international isolation for the Israeli leader.

In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, a number of Palestinian officials all voiced a similar theme: Following the U.N. General Assembly’s recognition of “Palestine” as a nonmember observer state in November, the status quo cannot continue.

“2013 will see a new Palestinian political track. There will be new rules in our relationship with Israel and the world,” said Hussam Zumlot, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down shortly before Netanyahu’s election in early 2009 and have remained frozen throughout his term, mostly due to the dispute over Israel’s construction of settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Palestinians claim the areas, along with the Gaza Strip, for a future state. Israel captured the areas in the 1967 Mideast war.

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt settlement construction before negotiations can resume, saying the continued building is a show of bad faith. Netanyahu says talks should resume without preconditions, and notes that a 10-month partial freeze on construction he imposed two years ago failed to bring about substantive negotiations.

Frustrated with the impasse, the Palestinians turned to the United Nations for recognition of an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel, which withdrew from Gaza in 2005, rejects a return to its 1967 lines.

Although the U.N. vote did not change the situation on the ground, it had deep implications. Opposed by just nine countries, it amounted to a strong international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future borders. It also cleared the way for them to join international agencies to press their grievances against Israel.

Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of bypassing direct negotiations.

“One would hope we will in fact see in 2013 the re-emergence of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process,” said Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev. “There is no substitute for direct talks. You’re not going to make peace in resolutions at the United Nations or other international forums.”

At the heart of the deadlock are the huge gaps between the two sides’ conditions. Netanyahu has embraced the idea of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Without action soon, the thinking goes, Israel will find itself in permanent control of millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, threatening its status as a democracy with a Jewish majority. But Netanyahu has added so many caveats, including a refusal to turn Jerusalem into a shared capital and demands to retain significant parts of the West Bank, that the Palestinians believe negotiations would be futile.

Palestinian officials say they are hopeful that a formula for restarting talks can be found after Israel’s election on Jan. 22, perhaps through a new initiative from President Barack Obama.

The Palestinians have begun to speak of a trial, six-month negotiating period. Azzam al-Ahmed, a top aide to Abbas, said Arab diplomats will present the plan in Western capitals, Russia and China next month. But with the Palestinians insistent on a settlement freeze, and opinion polls forecasting a new hardline Israeli coalition headed by Netanyahu, expectations are low.

The Palestinian officials said they will not rush toward any punitive measure, but they are determined not to stand pat.

“We have to prepare ourselves for a long and tough battle,” added Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ top decision making body. “We will use all the political tools available.”

Among the options being considered is halting cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. The cooperation is widely seen as a key element in preserving the calm in the West Bank in recent years, in sharp contrast to the heavy fighting a decade ago.

“There will be no security cooperation as long as there is no political horizon,” said Mohammed Ishtayeh, a Palestinian Cabinet minister.

The Palestinians also talk of increasing “popular struggle,” the term they use for demonstrations against Israeli soldiers. Such face-to-face confrontations frequently turn tense, with protesters throwing stones and troops firing tear gas and water cannons, and run the risk of growing more violent.

Perhaps most troubling to Israel, the Palestinians also want to use their upgraded status on the world stage to push for international action against Israel.

Officials say they will move to join the International Criminal Court, where they hope to pursue war crimes charges against Israel for its settlement activities. Although the road to taking legal action in the ICC appears to be long and complicated, it nonetheless has made Israeli officials jittery.

“We are going to pursue this policy to reach a point of having the international community impose sanctions on Israel,” said Qais Abdelkareem, another PLO official.

This Palestinian agenda, while ambitious, is likely to encounter stiff resistance from both Israel and its international allies. Israel has a number of tools at its disposal, including possible military or economic pressure on the Palestinians. Israel’s allies in the West, particularly the U.S., will also likely shield it from any attempt to impose broad international sanctions, at least in the near term.

But there are signs that international patience with Israel is wearing thin. There was strikingly sharp anger over the Israeli plan to build thousands of new settler homes in response to the Palestinian bid at the U.N.

The U.S., using especially harsh language, accused Israel of engaging in a “pattern of provocative action.” All the members of the U.N. Security Council except the U.S. denounced the Israeli settlement plans at a special meeting this week.

The European Union has also condemned the planned construction. The 27-member bloc issued a statement earlier this month raising the possibility of requiring Israel to label any exports that originate in the settlements. It also noted that future cooperation agreements would not include territories captured in 1967, including east Jerusalem, which Israel claims as an integral part of its capital. There are fears that individual European states might impose sanctions of their own.

An Israeli official said the extent of the international uproar had caught officials off guard. “Something has changed,” he said. “Clearly a line has been crossed.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed diplomatic meetings.

Yossi Beilin, a former deputy foreign minister and peace negotiator, said there is “no way” the status quo can continue and that Netanyahu “understands that this situation where the U.S. is the only one to support Israel cannot go on forever.” He said Netanyahu, after pandering to hard-liners during the election campaign, will likely try to bring in a centrist party into his coalition after the vote to give the government an image of moderation.

“Reality might impose itself in such a way that we will find him doing things, like maybe an interim agreement with the Palestinians or something that seems now unexpected,” Beilin said. “He will make small steps to appease adversaries. And to Netanyahu, the whole world is an adversary.”

(www.miamiherald.com / 20.12.2012)

Israel says it will build settlements in East Jerusalem neighborhoods

Palestinian laborers work on a construction site in the east Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, on December 18, 2012.

Palestinian laborers work on a construction site in the east Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, on December 18, 2012.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Plans to build a settlement in East Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood drew criticism
  • Israel says it will continue a plan to build settlements in other East Jerusalem neighborhoods
  • Panel OKs about 1,500 Ramat Shlomo units, up to 3,000 in Givat Hamatos and Beit Safafa
  • Israeli PM: Building in Jerusalem is “a natural thing”; Palestinians: Settlements hinder peace

Jerusalem (CNN) — A day after the U.S. State Department strongly condemned Israel’s plans to build a 1,500-unit settlement in East Jerusalem, Israel announced it would continue a plan to build settlements in other East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, initial approval for a total of up to 3,000 homes in Jerusalem was granted.

Read more: Calm elusive as rockets rain in Gaza, Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of foreign ambassadors from Asia-Pacific countries he met with on Wednesday, while overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City: “The walls that you see behind me represent the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem. We’re not going to change that. That’s a natural thing.”

He went on to say: “Imagine that you had to limit construction in your own capital; it doesn’t make sense.”

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Danny Ayalon defends Israeli settlements

Israel criticized for settlement plan

Read more: Israel’s Hamas policy threatens permanent war

The significance of building in East Jerusalem is that Palestinians have long hoped to make it their capital in a future Palestinian state that would include the West Bank and Gaza. In 1967, Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem, an action never recognized internationally and long condemned by Palestinians as an obstacle to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On Tuesday, Israel announced that settlement building in Ramat Shlomo would continue, a plan originally announced in 2010. Back then, the announcement, which coincided with a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, angered and embarrassed the United States.

Read more: After Israel-Gaza: Who won, who lost?

At the time, the U.S. had brokered indirect talks between Palestinians and Israel that it hoped would reinvigorate the peace process, but the settlement building announcement prompted the Palestinians to pull out of the talks. There have not been peace talks since.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland used the strongest words against Israeli settlements in recent years after Tuesday’s announcement to move the settlement plan forward.

“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action. These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path to a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk,” she said Tuesday.

Read more: Why Israel might hesitate to start a ground invasion

On Wednesday, Israeli Interior Ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach said of the Ramat Shlomo building plan:

“It is a plan which was passed in the local council (during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in March 2010), and two and a half years ago, it was opened to appeals from the public by the regional council. The public’s objections were heard this week. As a result of the objections, a number of units were dropped. Now the property developer needs to make the changes to the plan and set out what he is obligated to do according to the plan.”

Still, 1,500 new units have been approved.

And a day after Nuland’s statement, an Israeli planning committee approved more settlement plans. The latest approval is for the Givat Hamatos and Beit Safafa neighborhoods. If that plan goes to the building stages, they would be the first new settlements built in East Jerusalem since 1997.

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Jewish settlement faces demolition

Read more: Why U.S., Israel should welcome Palestinian move at U.N.

Palestinian Authority officials are furious and see this as another indication that Israel is not interested in a two-state solution, something Israel denies.

“If there is a financial cliff in Washington or the United States today, there is a political cliff over a two-state solution (here), and I think we are already slipping down the cliff, because the implementation of the massive settlement program that Israel has announced just today and yesterday it is putting an end to the possibility of a two-state solution,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, a Palestinian Authority negotiator and minister, told CNN on Wednesday.

Israel’s Jerusalem mayor sees things differently. A statement about Israel’s plan to build about 2,600 units in the neighborhoods of Givat Hamatos and Beit Safafa from the mayor’s office said: “Mayor Nir Barkat strongly condemns any attempt to undermine or derail the development plans, which will benefit the Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem alike. Not planning and developing Jerusalem neighborhoods ultimately harms all residents and landowners — Arabs and Jews alike.”

Read more: Gaza conflict leaves a ‘cruel paradox’ for Palestinians

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN: “The actual construction is of 3,000 housing units, as was decided by the government on November 30, 2012. All these units are in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs that will stay a part of Israel in a future peace agreement. All other announcements regarding construction refer to stages of planning and zoning, a bureaucratic process that takes years to complete. In any case, this process necessitates a separate decision by the government before actual construction can begin.”

The United Nations and many countries in the world consider Israeli settlements illegal and an impediment to the peace process.

Netanyahu has been pushing more settlement expansion ever since the Palestinian leadership petitioned the United Nations fornonmember state status, which it received on November 29 after the majority of U.N. member nations approved it. In essence, the approval created a degree of statehood for Palestinians, though the change is largely symbolic.

The recent settlement approvals do not mean building will commence quickly, but they may heighten tensions between Israel and its Western allies, never mind its Palestinian neighbors who are hoping the international community puts more pressure on Israel over the settlement issue.

“Israel does not understand the language of condemnation; it does not need somebody in a press conference to say we’re opposed. Israel needs somebody to link its actions to the economic relations with this or that country. It was (former U.S. Secretary of State) James Baker who stood to say that if Israel continues with the settlement program, we are linking it to loan guarantees that are given to the state of Israel,” said Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Authority negotiator.

This is all happening just as Israel is set to elect its next leaders on January 22.

(edition.cnn.com / 20.12.2012)

Iran, Russia to continue supporting Syria: Iran deputy FM

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says Tehran and Moscow will continue supporting the Syrian government, 

“I have seen that there has not been any change in the Russian strategy towards Syria,” Amir-Abdollahian said on the sidelines of a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow.

“Tehran and Moscow will continue supporting Syria,” he noted, adding that Iran’s six-point peace plan allows for a political solution to the unrest in Syria “and Russia and Iran share this position.”

On December 16, Iran unveiled the details of a six-point plan to resolve the ongoing crisis in Syria, which calls for an immediate end to all violent and armed acts.

The plan calls for sending humanitarian aid to Syrians following the end of all conflicts, lifting all economic sanctions imposed against the country, and facilitating the return of displaced Syrians to their homes.

It also urges talks between the Syrian government and the representatives of all Syrian groups regardless of their political and social tendencies in order to form a national reconciliation committee.

“We believe that a majority of Syrian people will support our plan,” Amir-Abdollahian said. “The plan considers all Syrian people into account and will lead to a solution to the unrest. The Syrian government now has to approve this plan.”

Iran also hosted a two-day meeting between the representatives of the Syrian government and opposition groups in November with participants unanimously opposing foreign interference and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Arab country.

High-ranking officials from different countries including Russia, China, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan participated in the meeting with the main theme of “No to Violence, Yes to Democracy.”

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

(www.presstv.ir / 19.12.2012)